Charlie Stross
Back to Author List

Charlie Stross

Charles Stross, a science fiction writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland, came on as a Wild Cards author in Knaves Over Queens. Stross’s story, “Police on my Back,” introduces a new character, the crime boss Pussyface. Pussyface is the ruthless leader of a gang of jewel thieves, and yes, he’s essentially a humanoid cat, complete with claws. 

In addition to being a new member of the Wild Cards universe, Stross is an avid champion of the series. We’re likewise huge fans of his own series, which you can read more about below.

Early Days


Born in 1964 in Leeds, England, Charles Stross started writing stories at age twelve, around the same time that he discovered George R. R. Martin’s work. He also was an avid player of D&D, so much so that as a teenager, he regularly contributed articles on gameplay to the well-known English gaming magazine White Dwarf. He’s responsible for creating several creatures that are still in use today, including the amphibian slaad, the death knight, the githyanki, and the githzerai, the names of which he took from Martin’s 1977 novel The Dying of the Light. A githyanki graces the cover of the 1981 first edition of the Fiend Folio, the edition where Stross’s creatures first appeared. While he gave up tabletop games sometime in his early twenties, he kept writing.

In the mid-eighties, Stross studied in Bradford and London, where he got degrees in pharmacy and computer science. Before becoming a sci-fi writer, he worked a host of jobs: he was a computer programmer, a freelance journalist, and a technical author for various start-ups in the early nineties, a time he refers to as the “startup death march” on his blog, antipope.org.

He published his first short story, “The Boys,” in Interzone in 1987, and after about a decade and a half, published a story collection, Toast: And Other Rusted Futures, with Cosmos Books, an imprint of the US publisher Wildside Press. A year later, in 2003, he published his first novel, Singularity Sky, with Ace Books—the first book in a trilogy that garnered Stross two Hugo nominations for Best Novel over the next few years. 

After that, well. Charles Stross doesn’t mess around. From 2004 to 2014, Stross works were nominated or chosen nearly every year for career-making literary prizes. He won Locus Awards for Accelerando (2006), “Missile Gap” (2007), and “The Apocalypse Codex” (2013); a Prometheus Award for Glasshouse (2006); a Sidewise Award for the Merchant Princes series; and the 2019 European SF Society Hall of Fame Award for Best Author. He’s also a three-time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novella, for “The Concrete Jungle” (2005), “Palimpsest” (2010), and “Equiod” (2014).

Charles Stross’s Series


Fans love Stross for his series, including the Laundry Files and Merchant Princes series. He’s spoken at many science fiction conventions in multiple countries, and he’s become a household name in the SFF community.

Here are brief descriptions of Charles Stross’s famous series.

The Eschaton Series


Stross’s first series was Eschaton, starting with his novel Singularity Sky. The book is about Earth in the distant future, where a sentient and all-powerful AI called the Eschaton has set off the Singularity, essentially causing a super-accelerated evolution in technology and society. Two humans, UN black ops agent Rachel Mansour and freelance engineer Martin Springfield, are working to thwart a society called the New Republic, which is as oppressive as it is Luddite; all advanced tech has been banned for civilians. A separate alien intelligence named the Festival starts dropping cell phones to people, in order to radicalize one of the New Republic’s colonial worlds. Springfield and Mansour are forced to time travel—a practice that is strictly forbidden by the Eschaton—to appease their respective handlers.

The Laundry Files


In 2004, Stross created the Laundry Files series. The series follows IT consultant Bob Howard, who happens to stumble upon ancient powers and gates to other dimensions while working on some particularly advanced computing issues. This type of advanced computing turns out to be actual magic, and Howard is quickly recruited by a mysterious British intelligence unit called The Laundry. The first book, The Atrocity Archives, follows Bob’s travails as a newly minted interdimensional spy. The whole series is shot through with workplace humor, Lovecraftian horror, and dry jokes about bureaucracy.

Rule 34 and the Halting State Trilogy


A few years later, in 2007, Stross wrote the first novel of what would have been the Halting State trilogy, Halting State. The novel focuses on a Scottish detective sergeant, Sue Smith, and her colleagues as they investigate a series of cyber-robberies in a popular multiplayer online role-playing game, Avalon Four, which operates similarly to the real-life game World of Warcraft. As they learn more about how the burglaries go down, they discover a much larger conspiracy: the government is surveilling people over the internet without their knowledge or consent, as part of some shady counterterrorism efforts.

The sequel, Rule 34, is told in rotating second-person POV, focusing on three storylines that eventually intersect. Edinburgh Police Inspector Kavanaugh investigates the gruesome murders of porn spammers and discovers that a string of similar killings is taking place in the rest of Europe. Anwar, a former identity thief, becomes Scottish honorary consul for a fictional Central Asian state. We also follow the Toymaker, who is the head of the criminal operation responsible for the murders. The same throughline of unethical government surveillance continues in this novel, only the information comes from the general public’s porn habits, as opposed to their gaming routines (hence the book’s title, which references rule #34 of the internet). 

Unfortunately, the events of the Halting State trilogy proved eerily accurate, and Stross ended the series prematurely after Edward Snowden basically played out the real-life events of the third novel during his famous 2013 leaks regarding the NSA’s surveillance of citizens’ online lives. Stross wrote of the decision not to continue the series in a blog post: “‘Halting State’ wasn’t intended to be predictive when I started writing it in 2006. Trouble is, about the only parts that haven’t happened yet are Scottish Independence and the use of actual quantum computers for cracking public key encryption (and there’s a big fat question mark over the latter—what else are the NSA up to?)”

Merchant Princes Series


Merchant Princes is an alternate-history series that comes on like high fantasy (an investigative journalist discovers a locket that allows her to visit another timeline, where North America’s eastern seaboard is occupied by a high medieval civilization) and goes out like a paranoid technothriller (what if the post-9/11 US government discovered that the main drug-smuggling cartel shipping product into the USA actually came from a parallel universe?). The series continues in the Empire Games trilogy. Set in the same universe(s) about 17 years later, it takes the paratime intrigue into the near future.

Essays by Charlie Stross

On what it’s like to discover superhero fiction in your thirties, as a Brit

Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /var/www/vhosts/wildcardsworld.com/httpdocs/wcbooks/wp-content/themes/wildcards/single-wc-author.php on line 188

Charlie Stross is featured in…